Through four games the Detroit Pistons hover at the .500 mark with a 2-2 record, and head coach Dwane Casey has already shown some willingness to adjust lineups and rotations left shorthanded by injuries to Reggie Jackson and Blake Griffin in the early goings of the season.
The Pistons shook off their frequent anemic starts over their first three games on Monday night against the Indiana Pacers thanks in part to a new starting lineup of Tim Frazier, Luke Kennard, Tony Snell, Markieff Morris and Andre Drummond. This unit shot the ball well and handed the bench a 20-17 lead halfway through the first quarter, but a familiar refrain popped up:
The Detroit Pistons simply do not take care of the ball.
So far this season they are eighth in turnovers with 18.8 per game, and sixth in turnover percentage, turning the ball over on 18.6% of their possessions. While Kennard and Reggie Jackson have been excellent stewards of the ball so far with respective turnover rates of 5.2 and 8.0, they have absolute turnover machines in the forms of Brown, Morris and Thon Maker.
Brown has 10 turnovers in his four games, giving him more turnovers than field goals (9). This number is staggering considering his low 15.3% usage, and his turnover percentage is an unbelievable 32.5%. Among all players with more than 14 possessions this season, Brown has the fifth-worst turnover percentage.
Morris has committed 12 turnovers, slightly fewer than his 14 field goals. His 23.5% turnover rate is 22nd in the league among players with over 14 possessions. Thon Maker has played 68 minutes with a meager 8% usage, has two field goals, four turnovers, and has the eighth-worst turnover percentage in the NBA at 28.6%.
While these turnovers clearly ruin offensive possessions, it’s also hurting them badly on the defensive end. The Pistons gave up 23 points on 19 turnovers on Monday against the Pacers, and basically hit their season averages in doing so.
The Pistons are giving up the fourth-most points off turnovers in the league, yielding 22.8 points per game. Only the New York Knicks, Charlotte Hornets and disastrous Sacramento Kings are allowing more points off turnovers. Those three teams have a combined 2-10 record.
These turnovers are scuttling excellent shooting performances as well. In fact, they’re the second-best 3-point shooting team so far, hitting 40.4% of their attempts, and their 58.3% true shooting percentage is second-best as well. Their 54.7% eFG is third-best in the NBA.
Without a doubt, some of these numbers are buoyed by outlier mid-range shooting performances from Derrick Rose, and Markieff Morris and Bruce Brown are unlikely to keep shooting over 40% from long range, but the Pistons have the 14th-best offensive rating in the league at 105.7 while shooting as well as the teams in the top three.
While avoiding self-inflicted damage like putting poorly constructed lineups on the floor is essential if this team wants to stay afloat in Blake Griffin’s absence, it’s just as crucial that they don’t shoot themselves in the foot with high turnover totals.
Some teams can withstand that kind of carelessness with the ball, in fact thriving off creativity in an effort to find the best shots, but that’s not the brand of carelessness the Detroit Pistons are exhibiting. The Pistons are sloppy in their turnovers and giving up their own possessions while yielding high-expectation scoring opportunities for their opponents.
Particularly in the cases of Bruce Brown and Thon Maker, it’s critical they get these issues under control. Considering their low usage, squandering their few possessions with such a high volume of turnovers is inexcusable and could be quickly making it difficult to justify giving them regular minutes as the rotation coalesces around them.